Everything You Need to Know about Low Cost Therapy with SCS Interns

Steffen Counseling Services is a Seattle-local group practice that adheres to a teaching model—we host graduate students who are working on their clinical hour requirements for their master’s programs, and as they graduate, we offer our interns full-time employment with benefits. After graduation, our associate therapists receive additional training and regular supervision, which offers clients the addd benefit of being able to continue therapy longer term. Our model allows us to offer low cost therapy with our clinical interns, which reduces barriers for potential clients seeking mental health services, and helps train new providers who will provide quality services for decades to come!

One of the primary benefits of seeing a clinical intern is the (much) lower cost. Interns are in the process of completing their 500 hours of therapy training and offer therapy services at a reduced rate compared to licensed therapists. Licensed therapists typically charge anywhere from $140-$200 per session, and many clients have high deductible plans, which mean that they may be paying that full fee, out of pocket. For many people, this just isn’t financially possible. Therapy with our interns is between $60-$75 per session, pay what you can, no proof of income required. This fee covers the expenses associated with the internship program, and has allowed us to expand the program over the last 3 years.

Clinical interns are enthusiastic and passionate about their work, they have the most up to date training and education available in the field, and they bring a fresh perspective to therapy sessions. Interns aren’t burned out, disengaged, or phoning it in—they are there to work hard for their clients, and as an added benefit, they receive 3-4 hours of clinical supervision per week. Fully licensed therapists are not required to have supervision, and they often work in isolation—many licensed therapists haven’t received training or education, let alone supervision, for decades! Interns work in a supportive, collaborative environment, under the supervision of licensed therapists, which means they have access to support and guidance from experienced professionals. Because interns are still in the process of completing their training, they are very focused on learning and building their skills, rather than on building a client base and running a business.

While clinical interns receive extensive training and supervision, they don’t have the same level of experience as licensed therapists. They may not have encountered certain issues or problems that a more experienced therapist would be familiar with—so they may need to ask their supervisor questions to help guide their work with their clients. However, there are also benefits of working with a less experienced therapist. Interns aren’t going to make assumptions or jump to conclusions, or tell you how to solve your problem before they’ve even completed an assessment. When they need to do learn more about a particular topic, they have the time and resources to do so. They are determined to be the best therapist they can be, and will often spend time outside of sessions reading or receiving extra training when they feel they need it for their client. While interns may not be as familiar with community resources, their supervisors are seasoned providers local to the Seattle area, and they can always assist their students with referrals and resources. Supervisors don’t tell interns what to do or dictate how they practice—they provide assistance and recommendations, so that the intern can use their judgment based on their knowledge of their client’s needs.

For some potential clients, there may be a stigma associated with seeing an intern therapist—some people may view it as a lower-quality service or may feel embarrassed about the idea of seeing a trainee rather than a fully licensed professional. However, it’s important to remember that interns receive extensive training and supervision, and provide effective and high-quality therapy services at a lower cost. The internship program is a cost-effective way for clients who need services that aren’t covered by insurance, such as couples and sex therapy, or who have insurance plans that require them to pay a high deductible out of pocket, or who don’t have insurance coverage for mental health care. It’s also our answer to the mental health crisis in the US—we started this program in May of 2020, when the demand for therapy far outweighed the availability of treatment. Many of our clients tell us that we were the only practice who responded to their email, or answered their phone call, or that they contacted 20 therapists to find someone with availability, and so on. Our clinical interns often work outside of regular business hours, and we structure our practice such that we can almost always place a new client referral within 1-2 weeks. As of this posting, SCS employs 5 clinical interns and 7 associate therapists (4 of whom are former interns), with 2 additional interns starting in September of 2023.

If you have any additional questions about seeing a clinical intern, please contact practice owner and intern supervisor Brittany Steffen at brittany@steffencounselingservices.com for additional information. If you’re ready to get started, you can complete our new client survey to be matched with a therapist. If you know who you want to work with, you can schedule with your provider of choice.